Construction on The Tiger Hotel started in 1927, and the 10-story, 115-room hotel opened a year later. Throughout its history, the building has remained the same architecturally but has served many different purposes.
In 1954, MFA Insurance made plans to use the building as its headquarters but ultimately decided against it because the building was "too vertical."
The hotel was auctioned twice in bankruptcy sales in the 1980s. In 1990, it was purchased by Westin Financial Group and reopened as a senior citizens home under the name Tiger Kensington.
The red neon "Tiger" sign at the top of the hotel was darkened for 42 years until September 2004, when it was restored, reattached and ceremoniously lit. The restoration took three months and cost $20,000, and each of the 8-foot-tall letters had to be lifted 150 feet by crane and bolted down.
In recent years, The Tiger’s Forrest Theatre has been one site of the True/False Film Festival, which is held in Columbia every year. The theater was previously the main ballroom.Tax increment financing
The owners of The Tiger Hotel were early proponents of tax increment financing in Columbia, and they were also the first to submit an application to use the tax incentive.
Under the tax increment financing agreement with the city of Columbia, any increase in property tax revenue from planned improvements would be funneled back into the project.
The project faced opposition from the Columbia Public School District, which would stand to benefit from increases in taxes collected from The Tiger without tax increment financing.
Under terms of a development agreement approved in 2009, the city would reimburse owners of the hotel over a period of no more than 23 years for $1.785 million of the $8.925 million project.
There was a plan to renovate the interior of The Tiger so it could reopen as a boutique hotel, defined in the agreement as a hotel generally rated three out of five stars by hotel rating organizations. Examples include the Bell Tower Inn in Ann Arbor, Mich.; the Dahlmann Campus Inn in Madison, Wis.; and Hotel Indigo, a nationwide chain.
The agreement also set a general construction schedule requiring the developers to secure private financing by June 30, 2009, then start construction within 90 days. Construction would be finished within 18 months.
The top floor of The Tiger is used for office space, banquet rooms and meeting rooms, and the first floor ballroom also is used for special events. A speakeasy-style bar called The Vault opened in the basement of The Tiger in May 2009.
The Tiger was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. It is also on the Columbia Historic Preservation Commission's list of Most Notable Properties.
Address: 23 S. Eighth St., Columbia
Area: less than 1 acre
County: Boone County
Historic function: Domestic/hotel
Current function: Commercial